A still from a new The General ad, featuring Shaq, Bad Luck Brian, and the brand's The General character. A still from a new The General ad, featuring Shaq, Bad Luck Brian, and the brand’s The General character. (The General.)

One of the wider-ranging sports advertising partnerships recently is insurance company The General’s deal with the NBA’s G League. That covers a lot of fronts, including title sponsorship of an eight-part The Break docuseries. That series has looked at everything from the nationally-televised exhibition battle between Scoot Henderson and Victor Wembanyama to the journey of NBA veteran Norris Cole to Mac McClung’s performance at the NBA All-Star Weekend Slam Dunk Contest, and it put out its eighth and final (at least for now) episode Thursday. Here’s that episode, covering the G League playoffs (which saw McClung’s Delaware Blue Coats win the title):

Around the release of that final episode, The General’s vice president (marketing) Kale Sligh spoke to AA by email. Sligh discussed The General’s sponsorship of the docuseries, their wider G League partnership (they’re the exclusive auto insurance partner of the G League and the G League Ignite team), their long-running association with NBA on TNT analyst Shaquille O’Neal (who narrates The Break), and how this all fits into a wider brand refresh and new campaign (also called “The Break”) they unveiled earlier this month. Sligh told AA The General’s sponsorship of the docuseries has worked out spectacularly to date.

“We couldn’t be more thrilled with how the series has turned out so far. Our partnership with the G League kicked off last fall with the same mission—to give up-and-comers a break. The docuseries has given us a unique opportunity to connect with the interests of our customers and G League fans by showing up in places that are important to them.”

He said the docuseries has shown the value of investing in original content.

“As a brand, it’s important to stay ahead of emerging trends, and original content like “The Break, presented by The General” has proven to be a valuable way to connect with consumers through creative storytelling. In fact, the docuseries has become the most-viewed G League partnered content series of all time, proving our campaign messaging is already resonating with key audiences.”

Sligh said the additional wide media attention on McClung this year has helped the series gain further traction.

“On top of this, getting to follow along with Mac McClung from the kickoff of the season to All-Star Weekend to winning the G League championship has been an incredibly rewarding experience. Moments like these prove the entire objective behind this docuseries: getting to watch those in the NBA get their big break.”

But the docuseries is only part of the larger partnership and plan here. And that includes the “The Break” brand refresh and ad campaign The General unveiled earlier this month as part of the lead-up to their 60th anniversary. That campaign, the brand’s first with creative agency Energy BBDO, includes a redesigned logo (designed internally before lettering artist Jessica Hische polished and finessed each letter), new partnerships, a visual refresh of their titular The General character, and four new video spots. Sligh said the anniversary was a key part of the timing here.

“At The General, we’re on a mission to establish ourselves as the most empathetic, flexible insurance company. We’re constantly evolving to meet customer needs, which makes right now the perfect time to continue our brand evolution journey with the launch of our new campaign, titled “The Break.” At its core, this campaign is focused on reaching an audience that is seeking opportunities to get ahead, as well as those who are in need of a break.”

“This year, we’re approaching our 60th anniversary as a company, so it’s important to us, as part of this brand evolution, to pay homage to our rich history by elevating and modernizing the quality and design of the logo and character. Impressively, our internal brand team led the development of the new logo design and worked with lettering artist and New York Times bestselling author Jessica Hische to put the finishing touches on the new look.”

“Similarly, the General character has been a staple of our brand since he was created in the summer of 1998. We wanted to give him a new, fresh, and modern look. One of the intentional choices was making sure his eyes were more visible to better showcase his empathy and relatability.

Here’s one of the video spots, featuring O’Neal, internet celebrity Kyle “Bad Luck Brian” Craven, and the redesigned the General character:

Sligh said “Bad Luck Brian” was a great fit for the message they’re trying to communicate here.

“‘The Break’ is a simple concept. When times are tough and it feels like things aren’t going your way, getting a break can make all the difference. This made ‘Bad Luck Brian’ a great internet celebrity for us to partner with. Faced with many unfortunate car-related events, we were able to show how The General is always there to give someone a break, even those who may be unlucky and need one the most.”

But while “Bad Luck Brian” is new to these ads, and while the The General character has been updated, there’s continuity for the brand in having O’Neal involved given his long history with them. Sligh said O’Neal has been a great partner.

“Working with Shaq means so much to us. He has the ability to connect with our mission and our customers in a unique and authentic way. In fact, partnering with Shaq for ‘The Break’ campaign came very naturally because we were able to give him the break that he needed 30 years ago when he bought his first car in college. He remembered that and it was a driving factor in forging a relationship with him as a brand ambassador—which was actually one of the first projects that I worked on in my role at The General.”

“Since then, he’s helped us elevate our game every step of the way. Whether he’s working on ad spots or narrating our G League docuseries, The Break, presented by The General, he always brings the Shaq magic. And it’s so fun to work with him. ”

An interesting new step with this campaign saw the brand do their first-ever spot entirely in Spanish. Here’s that ad, which has O’Neal and The General visiting by featuring Shaq a street vendor serving Puerto Rican shaved ice.

Sligh said that’s part of their wider mission to reach the Hispanic audience, and O’Neal was game for it.

“By featuring Shaq and the newly-evolved General visiting a street vendor serving Puerto Rican shaved ice, we were able to connect with the fast-growing Hispanic audience in authentic and culturally relevant ways. Shaq was game for participating in an ad that, from conception to creation, was developed completely in Spanish — and he was a natural.”

Sligh said the G League partnership and the docuseries were important steps along the way in working up to this full “The Break” campaign.

“For 60 years, we’ve been providing quality insurance and flexibility in policies and payments. With this new campaign, we’re really showcasing how we put ourselves in our customers’ shoes and give drivers a break when they need it the most. From the new ad spots, logo, and evolved character to ongoing sports and entertainment partnerships — everything ladders up to ‘The Break’ campaign and messaging in an authentic way.”

And he said this campaign’s a big step for them, and it builds upon everything they’ve done.

“Our team is really excited about this new campaign—it’s a big initiative that many people have collaborated on for a while now. It’s a huge next step in our brand evolution journey to establishing ourselves as the most flexible and empathic insurance provider.”

About Andrew Bucholtz

Andrew Bucholtz has been covering sports media for Awful Announcing since 2012. He is also a staff writer for The Comeback. His previous work includes time at Yahoo! Sports Canada and Black Press.